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Meet Fabian Debora of Latinx Producers Action Network School of the arts

Today we’d like to introduce you to Fabian Debora.

Fabian, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My Name is Fabian Debora, born in El Paso Tx, I am, first-generation Mexican-American. When I was 5 we moved to Los Angeles where I was raised in Boyle Heights. I grew up in the Aliso-Pico housing projects just east of the L.A River. I would say it was the beginning of my education, which found its way to Latinx Producers Action Network School of Arts.

Why I say this is because due to my upbringing within life challenges and circumstantial barriers, I too experienced a lack of opportunity and access to what it was I loved to do, in this case, art. Growing up in the 80’s was not an easy task. Both my parents where Immigrants, which was one of many other challenges to come. Behind the disparity of not having stability with consistent work. My father felt powerless, after many trials he then made a choice to become a drug dealer as a way to compensate for the exclusion he would gain from many employers. My Father was a loving caring man, that would do anything for his family. But in this case, his best thinking was skewed by an immediate survival action. Behind this, I was now becoming impacted by his hypervigilance, neglect, and absence.

My Mother was doing everything she could, as to help me contain my innocence, but then again she to had to make ends meet. So she made a tough choice and decided to stand by my father, with hopes it would only be temporary. This then led to Long-term drug use where it got harder to sustain hope. In the Myst of the trauma, I discovered this gift called Art, to escape the disfunction in my household, I would hide under a coffee table with a long drape that gave me a sanctuary away from it all. I would grab my notebook and begin to create my own worlds as to escape my reality. Art, gave me hope but most importantly it gave me my self-worth.

With the hopes to gain an education which would lead to a brighter future, that too was far from reach due to my lack of confidence and trauma. School was not of interest and not behind my choice, but behind what I had to carry as a child, let alone focus on my education. I would draw in class during every subject, 2+2=4, 4=4= a drawing, “you are not to draw in class they would say, go to the principal’s office, this happened from third grade up unto 8th grade. I smile when I say I was just about to give my mother a glimpse of the dream, graduate high school, go to college, and end up in some university. But an eight grade teacher cut that real short when he decided to rip one of my artworks in class. He belittled me, made me feel very small as if everything that I was escaping in my life came back to light.

So I threw a desk at him which, made me the bad kid and got me expelled. Teacher never got held accountable for what he did. “In this, I was betrayed by my father, and my mother who could not protect me from my father, Community who did not step up in time of need, and now the school system” so whats left. I began to engage in Hip-Hop culture by breakdancing and graffiti art, but that too, was not welcomed by society, “hoodlums, they call that dancing? their wasting their time and vandalizing the city, they would say”. So again feeling excluded and lack of resources, I the joined a Gang which was the worst mistake I ever made, although it felt right at the time. Now I too start to become and act just like My Father, stuck in the cycle.

This then leads me to Juvenile Justice Detention Facilities, later to L.A central Jail and other adult facilities of incarceration, this lifestyle would continue to the age of 30. After two suicide attempts, the second was the one that did it, where I could no longer deny that I do have a purpose in this world. A true spiritual awakening in which I no longer could continue blaming my father, for I am that father and is for my children I must continue living. I then went to the Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center in Pasadena where I did a six-month rehabilitation program. Soon after I went to seek out Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries in the year 2007, where I then continued in my healing process, as to then become a leader and a pillar of that organization.

Since then I’ve also continued in my craft as an Artist which allowed me to break into the Art world in landing in high-end galleries and painting murals through the city of L.A. and abroad. In 2008 while at Homeboy Industries I was introduced to Sandra Quintana, the founder of LPAN- Latinx Producers Action Network. She saw my gift and my passion for art. But most importantly she recognized my drive as to create a school of arts to give access to those youth within the inner city. After juggling this two great organizations for a decade I had to make a choice, so I chose to continue with the efforts of LPAN. I am now the Executive Director at LPAN and Arts facilitator within “La Clase” Art Academy Arts for Healing component of LPAN.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The road to my vision has been a one day at a time approach, it is through determination and believe that we have managed to be where we are at Today. I have been blessed to have met Sandra Quinta our founder here at LPAN who was able and willing to invest in me. She acknowledges that behind my efforts and leadership within the community I would have a further reach into working with those in the community in a more effective way.

Behind her vision with LPAN and the work she has been producing she thought this would be a great way to expand, we first began at The Rosslyn lofts for approximately 7 years. Which placed us in the central location on 5th and Main in Downtown Los Angeles. Although we had some success, we were not as accessible located on the second-floor mezzanine. After some years and experiencing the changes that were coming to DTLA it began to change the landscape of our mission and vision in who we were trying to provide services too.

In coming to terms and listening to our population we felt we needed to relocate. With this, my connection and understanding of the need in Boyle Heights and East LA, I then said: ” Well since some of these changes we encountering in DTLA are happening in Boyle Heights and East LA, we might as well go back home”. This is how we then made the move to East LA, prime location and more accessible to the community as we have created equity and inclusion within the arts.

Through my experience, I do acknowledge the external stressors that come from working with these specific population and yet it’s difficult when today they are specific criteria within grants that exclude participants which can become frustrating to us here in LPAN. As a grassroots organization walking amongst the youth and participants we have identified many challenges and obstacles that stagnate the progression of their lives.

Behind this, we have learned that our initial approach in Arts for healing was right on point. We have managed to make miracles with minimal funding. We have had tremendous support from our founder’s efforts in fundraising and Lenart Art Education Foundation who has also been investing in our mission and vision for over 3 years.

We recently have been provided support from The flourish foundation which continues to add to our existence in heartbeat. We have been working hard to be heard amongst these high-end institutions that have the infrastructure to take on many of these grants that fit perfectly to what we have been providing. I hope to get to a place where we do a field scan of who has been doing the work and has the extensive reach to populations these grants are designed for. In this way, high-end institutions do not helicopter in services but uplift and partner with those organizations such as LPAN to help deliver more effective services.

Other than this it is through prayer and believes that we must continue to impact those we come in contact with for that has always been our priority since we know that these are peoples lives were working with, and every encounter matters as we hope to build stability and resiliency for their progression.

Latinx Producers Action Network School of the arts – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Latino Producers Action Network (LPAN) is a nonprofit organization that champions underrepresented voices by building bridges between community, art, and culture.

We believe art has the potential to heal and transform members of communities affected by incarceration, violence, trauma, and gangs. In California, six out of ten formerly incarcerated people will return to prison within three years of release due in part to a lack of social and emotional coping skills, and lack of access to employment. Our model fosters nonviolent self-expression, racially integrated collaboration, and self-esteem while building skills in a sector that accounts for 11% of California’s economic output and 12% of all jobs (source: Otis Report on the Creative Economy).

How We’re Different?
What makes us different is we try not prescribe what we think works, we allow our participants the space to carry co-design and carry over the Antidotes to their success.

Homies Teaching Homies: Participants need to be able to see themselves as artists through their instructors and to understand how the arts can connect to their lives. Using art as the delivery mechanism, our space is tailored for prison re-entry and diversion, addiction recovery, and developing life skills.

Cultural Connections: We teach culturally relevant artistic practices as living and vitally important art forms, working to break cultural and income disparities in formal art spaces and elevate the voices of immigrant families.

Intergenerational Bonds & Mentorship: Our open-door policy brings families together in art-making to build a stronger community for everyone.

La Classe Art Academy:
“A place where you can come and breathe and get a sense of relief.”

La Classe Art Academy creates a space for participants to re-dream and re-define themselves. Our students are formerly incarcerated youth and adults, misguided youth, and parents with children who come together for intergenerational learning and bonding through the Convivir program. Students are taught a range of fine arts, including painting on canvas, graffiti, murals, conceptual art, sketching, digital art, and photography.

Weekly classes and intensives take place at LPAN Studios in Boyle Heights and in schools throughout Los Angeles. Master teaching artist Fabian Debora has a background in substance abuse programming with Homeboy Industries and works for the Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network, linking participants with resources and services that go beyond arts instruction. La Classe operates on an open door policy: anyone who wants to learn is welcome.

Homeboy Music Heals Program (with support from Mike Stoller):
Through the weekly Homeboy Music Heals Program, formerly incarcerated youth and adults are taught by master musicians from the Young Musicians Foundation to play a range of instruments, from guitar to keyboard to drums. Youth learn both formal technique and collaboration through informal jam sessions. Students also gain transferable technical and computer skills working with master mentors to produce professional-quality music using digital music programs to write, mix, and master their own songs.

RENT Poet Writes:
Through RENT Poet Writes, participants take control of their own narratives through The Moth-style storytelling and poetry writing bilingual workshops. Participants gain critical writing skills, learn to tell compelling stories, and connect with their emotions and each other. At the end of each workshop series, students are recorded performing their work for an invited audience, building their public speaking skills and sharing these essential stories with the world.

Arts for Incarcerated youth Network:
Re-entry hub Providing a space were we receive formerly incarcerated youth, to help co-design a more effective pathway to the creative economy.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
To me, success is every individual that finds the courage to walk through our doors, in knowing the difficulties and lives challenges in obstacles they face daily and still show up. When I find that mother and daughter have gained a stronger relationship in understanding behind their time spent with LPAN. When the youth yells from the bottom of his lungs in surprise that he has been out jail for 6 months and going.

When my participants acknowledge the spirit that exists within the space, a sense of relief, peace. When we are able to guide our participants to other resources that they were not aware of until they walked through our doors. The reminder of their existence and their contribution to this process as they feel their worth, and confidence to uplift their voice.

To me is all in the therapeutic encounters that come from such great space. These are the markers that infuse our drive and efforts into why we should exist.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Eddie Ruvalcaba

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